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Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:52 pm on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford East 5:52 pm, 13th December 1988

Despite what the Secretary of State says about competition within the proposed privatised industry, we are to turn a public monopoly into a private monopoly. The consumer will have no choice—there is no argument about it; the point was explored on the Floor of the House yesterday and this afternoon—just as he has no choice in the British gas industry.

One aspect of this privatisation makes it different from any other privatisation that has taken place under this Government. The Secretary of State criticised the people who work within the industry. He implied that the industry is not producing as it should and that, under privatisation, it could be dramatically improved. He ignored the fact that it is one of the safest and most efficient electricity supply industries within the developed world. If it had not been for recent price increases, the industry would be providing electricity cheaper than anywhere else in western Europe—certainly cheaper than in the United States or Japan.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Energy and I had an exchange on nuclear power. The central issue is the nuclear dilemma that the Government face. It is not a matter of whether one is in favour of or against nuclear power. Whatever the policy, we are to have some nuclear power into the next century. Under the Government's proposals, how is nuclear power to be dealt with and priced? There is no argument. When challenged, the Secretary of State for Scotland refused to respond to the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) on the cost and control of nuclear power.

With this Bill, the Secretary of State will put a fence around nuclear power. It will clearly state that it is different and will be dealt with and priced differently. Four PWRs are promised by the end of the century. There is also Sizewell B. We shall be faced with the decommissioning of AGRs and Magnox stations, which will cost several billion pounds. We must consider the tiny Calder Hall experiment, which is being decommissioned at the moment, and the problems that it is creating. What will happen when larger AGRs must be decommissioned in the foreseeable future? What about the cost of that?

My hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden referred to Mr. Donald Miller and his trenchant remarks about the saleability of the industry if the cost of nuclear power is not removed from the privatisation. If we were to approach Lord Marshall, we would get a similar argument.

Nobody is more enthusiastic about nuclear power than Lord Marshall.